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Religion is not the root cause of extremism, says Oasis Foundation report

01 December 2017


RELIGIOUS ideology cannot be blamed for extremism, a new report has said.

The report, Enough is Enough: Addressing the root causes of radicalisation, was published on Tuesday by the Oasis Foundation, a Christian movement that connects charities, churches, schools, and social enterprises in mission.

Islamic extremism is not driven by a single ideology, but by several factors, the report says. These same factors push individuals into gang culture, political extremism, and racial hatred.

These “push-factors” are not limited to religious belief, but can involve a lack of identity, belonging, and purpose; deprivation and economic marginalisation; mental-health issues; or community and family breakdown. The Government must acknowledge this by first tackling disadvantage and poverty in the UK, the report states.

Ian Sansbury, director of the Oasis Foundation and author of the report, explained on Wednesday: “Most people deemed to have been radicalised into Islamist extremism only show a skin-deep commitment to the religion and its practices.

“This report casts huge questions on the UK’s approach to tackling radicalisation, which focuses on challenging an ‘evil ideology’. While this may be part of the process, the report makes it clear that a number of broader and deeper circumstances need to be addressed, and that if we fail to do so, we will be abandoning many of our young people to a lifetime of danger.”

Young people — particularly young men — will be vulnerable to the forces of radicalisation where these conditions exist, the report explains; but the nature of that radicalisation is also dependent on the context.

It suggests, for example, that a Muslim youth from Manchester might be particularly vulnerable to Islamist extremism, while a black youth from Tottenham might be vulnerable to gang culture, and a white youth from coastal Kent vulnerable to political extremism.

“The causes of radicalisation are complex and multi-layered,” it says. “The different forms of radicalisation have many similar and overlapping causes; if youth radicalisation in all its forms is to be overcome, our policy responses must reflect those complex and overlapping root causes.”

The current extremist-prevention strategy in the UK is “incomplete, and too short-term in its focus”, the report goes on, “and should be replaced with a longer-term, more comprehensive and rebranded strategy through which grassroots communities are empowered to combat radicalisation.” This must include Muslim voices.

The report recommends the creation of a National Strategy for Community Empowerment and Cohesion to support faith and community groups and fund more youth programmes — including sport, arts, music, citizenship, and education — to draw vulnerable young people away from gangs and extremist ideologies.

These programmes should draw on and work with membership organisations such as the Scout Association, Girlguiding UK, Army Cadets, Volunteer Police Cadets, St John Ambulance, and the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, it says.

Education must also be reformed to consider those vulnerable to gang culture, extremism, and racial hatred. “The Department for Education should renew its focus on character formation across our schools, focusing on core human values, such as compassion, gratitude, consideration, and humility, as much, or perhaps more than, aspiration and achievement.”

Further funding should be given to research, information, and communications in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office. The Conservative peer Baroness Warsi explained in the report: “We moved to the how of terrorism without sufficiently understanding the why.

“This was one of a number of early mistakes in tackling terrorism, because without understanding the why, without engaging with the root causes, we created a vacuum in the thinking of policy-makers who needed to prevent individuals from setting foot on the track towards terrorism.”


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